Here is a boiled hot dog in all its glory. Closer in character to baloney than to sausage, it has none of the muscular oomph of an all-beefer, nor the char of a weenie that’s been grilled. It is a Dixie classic: gently snappy with marvelous fresh pink-pig flavor. There is a delicacy about the little frank that demands an equally fragile bun. And so it is at Charlie Joseph’s, where the buns are painfully tender, utterly fresh, singing perfect harmony.
All manner of toppings are available (yes, including ketchup; this is the South), the highlight being chili. It is subtly spicy, slightly sweet, at its best in concert with cool, crisp cole slaw, aka a Dixie dog. Relish is available sweet or spicy, the latter offering a friendly little pepper kick. Whatever toppings one gets, a full panoply of condiments always is welcome: mustard, onions, and the red stuff, too.
Hot dogs are the highlight. A short-order menu also includes hamburgers (which can be had as a hot dog topping!), cheese sandwiches, and peanut butter & jelly.
It’s a charming little place, packed to the ceiling with vintage memorabilia that hints at its genuine historical significance. Opened in 1920, four years before Mobile’s Dew Drop Inn, Charlie Joseph’s is one of the Deep South’s pioneering hot dog joints. Steven Keeth, whose grandfather was Mr. Joseph, told me, “We have people who come back after 50 years and they tell me that the hot dogs taste exactly the way they used to. That’s my goal. To keep the tradition.” Keeth said that he never gets tired of hot dogs, and in fact eats one every day.
Thanks, once again, to Keith McLendon (Chickenplucker) for pointing the way.
Drive-through service and walk-up windows are available.